He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the abyss and locked and sealed it over him... And the devil was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.(Revelation Chapter 20)
Most people would probably wish the above words come to happen any time in the month of August. This is the eighth month of the year and one of the seven with 31 days. It was named after Augustus Ceasar, the emperor of Rome. But it has earned itself the distinction of being the darkest of all. In fact, it is called the jinxed month when perhaps the gods get extremely angry and the hell opens its doors letting the devil reign over the earth.
But whether August has been accused rightly or otherwise, it has broken a record of some sort: some decisions or acts committed in this month have led to the highest number of deaths in history - actually it could be in excess of 100 million. Sometimes one thinks the UN should set aside an International Day of Prayers, preferably July 31, before August starts. Below is a quick look at a few happenings related to this period, moving backwards.
Road accident kills over ten women on a church mission in Tanga, Tanzania; scores die after consuming illicit brew in Mbeere District; South Africa police kill 34 demonstrating miners; three Ugandan helicopters crash around Mt Kenya killing eight soldiers; Ethiopia prime minister Meles Zenawi dies of illness; a plane in Sudan crashes killing over 30 people including the Minister for Guidance and Religious Affairs; eight pupils die in a dormitory fire at Asumbi Boarding Primary School; former minister John Michuki's wife Josephine and veteran politician Martin Shikuku die of illness; close to 60 people are killed in fighting in the Tana Delta; a plane accident in the Maasai Mara leaves four dead; Inter-clan violence in Wajir kills several people and hundreds are displaced; and Neil Armstrong, the first human to land on the moon in July 1969, dies aged 82.
August 23, 2003 - Michael Kijana Wamalwa dies
Kijana Wamalwa was one of the founding members and first vice chairman of Ford opposition party and MP for Saboti constituency. The party later split into Ford Kenya and Ford Asili with Jaramogi Odinga as the chairman of the former. After the death of Jaramogi, Wamalwa assumed chairmanship in January 1994. When the National Rainbow Coalition won the election in December 2002, he became the country's vice-president and the Minister for Regional Development. Soon he fell ill and sought treatment in London. And on this date, Wamalwa, who was an excellent orator, champion for democratic reforms and a possible next president of the republic, died in a London Hospital aged 58. This was just two months after he wedded Yvonne Nambia.
August 23, 2000
Father John Kaiser dies The Roman Catholic priest, who was a well-known human rights campaigner, was shot dead by unknown assailants on the Nakuru-Naivasha highway. Before his death he had won the Human Rights Award from the Law Society of Kenya and was posthumously honoured with the 2006 Milele (Lifetime) Achievement Award by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.
August 7, 1998 - East Africa bomb attacks, 200 killed, 5,000 injured
Between 10.30am and 10.40am, suicide bombers drove a truck laden with explosives into the US Embassy in Nairobi. Once it detonated, the explosion damaged the embassy building and a few others in the neighbourhood. Some 212 people were killed and an estimated 5,000 wounded. In Dar es Salaam, at the same time, terrorists drove a truck attacked the US Embassy. But since it was located outside the city the toll was less, with 11 killed and 85 wounded.
August 1998 - War in the DRC - 5.4 million deaths
Due to continental politics and competition for resources, especially minerals, war broke out in the Democratic Republic of Congo in this month. It involved eight African countries and 25 armed groups. The conflict has been described as the deadliest war since the end of World War II in 1945. It has also been called the Great War of Africa or Africa's First World War. Though it ended in July 2003, its aftermath has been mind-boggling. By 2008 it had resulted in deaths, mostly by starvation and diseases, of an estimated 5.4 million people, those of children accounting for 47 per cent. During that period, approximately 1.8 million women and girls were raped and a population of 1.5 million became Internally Displaced People. Some sources put that roughly 45,000 lives are lost every month in this country as a result of conflicts.
August 14, 1992 - Masinde Muliro dies
He was a great freedom fighter and a strong advocate for multiparty politics. The MP for Cherangany constituency had teamed up with Jaramogi Odinga and Martin Shikuku among others to found the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy where he became the vice- chairman. He had travelled to London for a fund-raising mission for the new party when on return he collapsed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and died.
August 14, 1990- Bishop Alexander Muge dies
The outspoken bishop together with Bishop Okullu had been warned by the Labour minister Peter Okondo not to set foot in Busia District where they had a scheduled function. The 44-year-old Anglican Bishop of Eldoret Diocese defied the order and made the visit. On his way back his vehicle was involved in an accident and he died on the spot. Muge and a few other clerics had been a thorn in the government's flesh for constantly calling for reforms.
August 1, 1982 - Coup d'etat, over 300 killed
Shortly after midnight a group of junior officers from the Kenya Air Force stormed the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (then Voice of Kenya) and took hostage veteran broadcaster Leonard Mambo Mbotela. They forced him to announce that they had overthrown the government of Kenya.
But the takeover lasted for just a few hours as it was suppressed by loyalist forces led by the Army, the GSU and regular police. However, looting, rape and destruction of property whose economic damage was estimated at Sh500 million continued for several days. During this mayhem, over 100 soldiers and 200 civilians were killed and the masterminds sentenced to hang by a court martial.
August 22, 1978 - President Kenyatta dies
Jomo Kenyatta was the country's first prime minister from June 1, 1963 and the following year on June 1, 1964 became the first president of the new republic. On October 20, 1952, he had been arrested with five others who came to be known as the Kapenguria Six in a crackdown by the colonialists on those who were fighting for independence. On this date, he died in Mombasa throwing the country into shock and mourning. His long serving vice president Daniel arap Moi then took over as the constitution demanded.
August 4, 1962 - Nelson Mandela arrested
The anti-apartheid campaigner was arrested by the South Africa security police, tried and sentenced to five years in prison. In 1964, he was placed on trial for sabotage, high treason and conspiracy to overthrow the government and sentenced to life in jail.
Through years of worldwide pressure he was eventually released on February 11, 1990 aged 77 after spending 27 years behind bars.
August 6-9, 1945 - First atomic bombs kill 300,000
In the early morning hours on August 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber, Enola Gay, dropped a single bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" over Hiroshima city in Japan. Detonating about 1800ft above ground, the explosion caused fire which merged into a fire-storm destroying much of the city. The flash and blast killed most people within 1.5km of ground zero, all estimated over 105,000. Another 100,000 died later due to radiation sickness. Then at mid-day on August 9, another bomber the Bockstar released the second bomb called "Fat Man" on Nagasaki city. This one took 80,000 lives. After these two attacks the Japanese surrendered putting an end to the second world war.
July 28, 1914 World War I; September 1, 1939 World War II - 75 million deaths
The First World War was mainly triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria along with his wife Sophie by a Yugoslav national. It involved all great powers of the world with 70 million military personnel mobilised over a period of four years. By the time it ended in 1918, nine million combatants and six million civilians had been killed officially. This war was declared on July 28, 1914, just three days short of August. Some twenty years later, Germany invaded Poland thus beginning the Second World War where more than 100 million served in military units during the six years it lasted. It has been described as the deadliest and largest armed conflict in human history. It left 20 million soldiers and 40 million civilians dead. This war started in the morning of September 1, 1939, just six hours after August!
August 26, 1883 - Volcanic eruption, 36,000 die
A huge volcanic eruption, one of the worst in recorded history, occured in Indonesia Island of Krakatoa. The explosion was heard 3,500km away with a big cloud of ash reaching 27km high. The Tsunami waves created went 120ft above the sea level and five cubic miles of earth were blasted into the air up to a height of 50 miles. While the Hiroshima bomb of 1945 released energy equivalent to 20 kilotons, this explosion had a massive 200 megatons of TNT. This disaster left more than 36,000 dead.